Olivia Allery, Contributor
George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis Police galvanized people across the world to take action against systemic racism and police brutality in the United States. Throughout the summer of 2020, protests broke out in response to Floyd’s murder and with this came a demand for change.
Activists and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement demanded the city defund the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), and on June 7, 2020, at Powderhorn Park, nine City Council members proclaimed they would do just that. They pledged to completely defund and dismantle the MPD and to end policing as we know it in favor of a new model of public safety.
It has been four months since the City Council’s initial pledge to end the MPD, and within this time a lot of uncertainty and confusion has risen among Minneapolis residents regarding this pledge. Some residents question why no concrete changes have taken place in the months since the pledge, and believe nothing is being done by the City Council to follow through with their promises.
This confusion has created many arguments and debates that have gone as far as to claim that the council has no course or plan to actually dismantle and get rid of the MPD and regrets making the pledge in the first place, not to mention the recurring argument that the council along with other city officials have bitten off more than they can chew, by overpromising and under performing. With the uncertainty of the global pandemic, it appears the city is prioritizing implementing COVID-19 safety measures over addressing police brutality.
After making the pledge, City Council members contacted their constituents to further express their interpretations of the pledge. Although there is no current plan of action, the City Council has expressed that this is not because they are simply ignoring the issue, but because they are taking careful steps. In order to build a completely new way of providing safety for the community, the council claims, there needs to be a collaborative effort between the city, police, and community members to ensure reform and change is actually made. This task cannot be done overnight.
As stated in the pledge, the council will be committed to engaging the community over the next year and getting an insight to what safety looks like to the people of Minneapolis. While this community engagement is still only a set of early foundational steps in the process of ending the MPD, the council has been able to make some progress within these past months. One such indicator of progress is the passing of an amendment that will put the MPD under City Council oversight, allowing more council control over MPD in a similar manner to city departments.
Although there is much work yet to be done, there are small signs of change. The council has been able to start small community discussions, and has moved a small portion of MPD’s funding to the Office of Violence Prevention.
There is still plenty of uncertainty, but the City Council is stressing that it is critical for the community to continue to engage and play a role in this change that will come. Additionally, City Council members highlight, it is important that the public stays involved and continues to challenge the city as we try to figure out how to build a more safe and just Minneapolis.
*sources to be followed up